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Meet The Graduates

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Maria Asayag
M.Ed. Educational Leadership


Shout Out To The Faculty:
“They are all the most understanding ever! I had Dr. George White as my advisor. He was huge in getting me the assistance and flexibility I needed. I could Skype into his class when I had to be on the road.”

Dogged Pursuit of Education:
“My mom, dad, and brothers would take care of my two dogs when I couldn’t. They would walk them when I had long days and couldn’t get back to Allentown or when I needed to spend the whole weekend working on a project.”

What Would You Say To A Colleague Thinking About Enrolling?
“I’d say 100% do it. I believe in investing in yourself. There’s almost no expense involved other than books. That tuition benefit should be motivation enough. But once you have the degree, no one can take it away. It’s a sacrifice and investment worth making.”

Top Tip For Finishing Faster:
“I did two one-week summer classes. They are insane- a ten-day long class from 8am to 2pm. It was an incredible way to get credits in a matter of days. You learned what you needed to learn.  You had assignments, reading, everything you would have in a regular class. Your brain is fried when you’re done but it’s worth it.”


Susan Ellis
M.S. in Instructional Design and Technology


How Did You Pick Your Program?
“Because my background was in higher education, I gravitated toward the College of Education. I didn’t have a specific career goal that was pointing me toward a particular program. It was wide open. I looked at the course catalog and read the course descriptions for the different programs. I landed on teaching, learning and technology. It turned out to be great because it was so flexible. I was able to focus my research on informal learning environments like museums.”

On Being A Staff Member In The Classroom:
“Everyone in the College of Education graduate programs is coming from a day job into the classroom. The faculty are very supportive.”

Wise Words That Encouraged Her:
“One of my biggest hesitations to start was my age. But I was talking to a colleague and he said ‘You know, if it takes you four years at the end you’ll have your degree, and if you don’t do it, those four years will still have gone by.’ We all put up roadblocks for ourselves in various ways.”


Jodeen Gemmel
M.Ed. Globalization and Educational Change


About Catching the Travel Bug:
“We hosted an exchange student from India when I was twelve. That really sparked my interest in meeting people from all around the world and learning about different cultures. I went to India to visit my exchange student sister when I was 16.  I majored in international relations in college and studied abroad in Mexico and Japan in college.”

How She Incorporated Her Studies Into Her Work:
“I was able to do a lot related to my own job. In the research class I did a proposal on a study abroad-related issue regarding satisfaction and budget models. And then I continued that research in my statistics class. Finally, I presented my results at a study abroad provider conference.”

What She Would Say To Someone on the Fence:
“Why wouldn’t you use this benefit? It’s a gift to be able to get a master’s degree. Just do it.”

Two Top Tips For Making It Through:
1) Lots of coffee. 2) I went to the library to take out my books for most of my classes.



Debra Rubart
B.S. Information Technology and Management, DeSales University


On Not Attending College After High School:
“College wasn’t discussed with me growing up, I didn’t even know what an SAT score was. I went to work after high school. I was a department manager in a retail store. That’s minimum wage, six to seven days a week and I thought, ‘there’s got to be something more than this.’”


On the DeSales ACCESS Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree Program:

“What we did in eight weeks was what a traditional student would do in a full semester. I appreciated the fact that they didn’t waste your time. You go in, you get your work done.”

Making It Work:
“A lot of lunch hours were spent studying. It was about being disciplined with my time. I would come home and take care of the kids and dinner, so I also had to work late into the night. It’s not easy reading Plato or Socrates at 10:00 p.m. – you get brain dead! But if you want it bad enough you’ll do it.”

On Removing Obstacles:

“If you have the support at home, then the only one holding you back is you. If you have that dream, then go for it. All the power is in here (she pointed to her heart). Do it.”



Heather Simoneau
M.A. English


An Unexpected Professional Benefit Of Being A Graduate Student:

“A lot of my classmates are teaching fellows. Now I get invited to give information literacy presentations in the English I classes they are teaching. I teach their students about citations and which journals to use in their research. I now feel even more connected to the humanities faculty who I serve as the Humanities Librarian here. It’s really helpful.”

What’s On Tap For Summer Vacation:
“This summer, I’ll be preparing to fulfill the language requirement for my doctorate via an online course from the University of Wisconsin. So, I’m hoping to spend the summer learning to read French and then go into courses in the fall.”

A Very Special Graduation Goal:
“My goal is for my son to get into Lehigh (he wants to go here) and then for us to graduate together in 2020. It will also be my 30th Lehigh reunion. Having that to go for keeps me going and stops me from taking a semester off. I’ll be doubling up courses so I can have more time for my dissertation.”

On Dipping Your Toe In The Water:
“You can take courses without being enrolled. If you want to test the waters, you can take a certain number of courses and see if you really like it. Then, if you want to enroll in a graduate program, I really strongly suggest you meet with a faculty member in the department. The graduate adviser would be a good person to discuss the program with.”

Karen Sims
M.Ed. Educational Leadership


On How Being A Parent Influenced Her Studies:
“My interest is concerning the affects of parental engagement for student achievement. How do you teach people to create a support system for themselves and their kids? We need to broaden the concept to family engagement.”


Practicing What She Preaches:

“I couldn’t be at everything, so I would ask them to tell me what was most important. I would send other family members to the things I couldn’t attend. I was able to grow an amazing support system to the point where they felt like this is their master’s degree.”

Things She Learned Beyond Her Studies:
“Some of the graduate students were staff from the Centennial School. It was amazing to hear the work that they’re doing and the impact they’re having with students who aren’t necessarily in love with learning, which is so challenging. They’re really igniting the love of learning in those students.”

Top Tip On Getting Started:
“A lot of people think they need to be totally decided but I would remind them that half the kids here arrive undecided. Just try it and take one class. You’ll open a whole new world for yourself.”



Sarah Stanlick
Ph.D. Learning Sciences and Technology


Long Distance Love And Learning:
“My husband stayed in Boston when I moved here for graduate school. We lived apart for three years. When he moved here he was able to take advantage of the Lehigh employee spouse tuition benefits and get a master’s degree in health systems engineering. He has a great job at St. Luke’s. It all sounds so linear and like we had a plan now, but at the time we weren’t sure we’d ever see each other again.”

On Transitioning From Full Time Student To Full Time Employee And Student:
“I’m not going to say it was easy, but I’m one of those people who squanders it if I have too much time on my hands. So, having a little bit of pressure actually helped a lot. People told me I was crazy, but I was like ‘I’ll show you. I will be successful.’”

What It Takes To Finish A Dissertation:
“Sleep was sometimes was a hard thing to do, and I would have liked to do more yoga and other physical activity. But I really like the stuff I was working on so it was material I would have found interesting to read about anyway. It sounds nerdy, but I really enjoyed it.  The dissertation is so entrenched and you have to be so focused, you are going to hate it at the end. You have to love something enough to write one paper about it for two years.”

Beyond The PhD:
“There are more community engagement opportunities coming up in the area that I’m excited to participate in. For the summer, I’m helping with a Mountaintop project about community-based storytelling called Bethlehem Unbound.”

Learn More About Our Graduates.

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Spotlight is published monthly by Human Resources. Please address any comments to Hillary Kwiatek, Spotlight Editor, Human Resources, 428 Brodhead Avenue, send email to hik210@lehigh.edu, or call extension 85165.

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